This season, high-goal polo in Wellington will have an exciting twist with the new World Polo League, which debuts in January with its first of five 26-goal tournaments.
Three high-goal players who own polo farms in Wellington founded the league, in conjunction with the top player in the world, to preserve 26-goal polo in the United States.
Other than in Argentina, 26-goal polo is the highest level of the sport played anywhere in the world and is unique to the United States. So, when polo patrons Bob Jornayvaz, Marc Ganzi and Melissa Ganzi learned that the United States Polo Association had decided to drop its 26-goal tournaments — including the U.S. Open — to the 22-goal level for the 2019 season, they got together with polo superstar Adolfo Cambiaso to see what they could do.
The answer was right in front of them. Jornayvaz owns Valiente Polo Farm, the Ganzis own the Grand Champions Polo Club, and all have organized and won 26-goal tournaments. Cambiaso, a WPL supporter from day one, has access to nearly every top player in the world. Among the four, they had all the ingredients for a 26-goal league: the fields, the players and the expertise to organize a high-goal league. They retained another big gun, Dale Smicklas, as league commissioner, and they were ready to roll.
Initially, the group planned a four-tournament series, but later decided to add a fifth, which opens the last week of January. The WPL season continues through April 14.
“We have added the World Cup as the fifth event to the WPL 2019 season,” Marc Ganzi said. “We believe placing the World Cup at the front of the season is exciting for fans and team owners, as it gives everyone playing in the Florida season a chance to compete for $100,000 in prize money irrespective of your handicap and where you will play your season.”
Jornayvaz underscored that there is “a lot more at stake here than just playing 26.” An integral part of the league is the “New Polo Experience,” designed by the founders. Under this unique concept, the WPL will offer an optional turnkey program designed to foster and attract sponsors to high-goal polo by reducing the barriers to entry. It has attracted several international players who have never played 26-goal polo.
“You don’t have to buy horses, find housing for your grooms, lease barns, arrange practice fields — all the things that make high-goal polo intimidating outside your home country. You write one check and just show up with your boots,” Jornayvaz explained.
The league has created three “parachute teams,” each with a 10-goaler already committed. Sponsors can bring their own horses and play with that team, or rent 26-goal horses. Among the all-star players are Cambiaso, Juan Martin Nero, Pablo MacDonough, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Pelon Sterling, Rodrigo Andrade, Nico Pieres and Nic Roldan.
“We thought it would be neat for team owners to be able to play with a 10-goaler they have only been able to play against before because they were all hired by other teams,” Smicklas said.
WPL teams will vote on which rules they want to play under, selecting from a combination of USPA, HPA and AAP rules. “We want to empower team owners,” said Jornayvaz, adding that team owners will share in any WPL revenues from apparel sales and live streaming of games.
Most importantly, he said, is the WPL’s commitment to all-inclusiveness.
“Anyone is welcome to play in our tournaments, the USPA tournaments or both,” Jornayvaz stressed. “This is a very positive thing for everyone in the sport.”
For more information about the league, visit www.worldpolo.org.
World Polo League 2019 Schedule
The World Cup • (Opens last week of January, dates TBA)
The All-Star Challenge • (February 6-17)
The Founders Cup • (February 20 – March 2)
The Palm Beach Open • (March 6-24)
The Triple Crown of Polo • (March 27 – April 14)